Archive for April 2010

Energy Incentives for Individuals in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

April 19, 2010

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provides tax incentives for individuals to invest in energy-efficient products.

Residential Energy Property Credit (Section 1121): The new law increases the energy tax credit for homeowners who make energy efficient improvements to their existing homes. The new law increases the credit rate to 30 percent of the cost of all qualifying improvements and raises the maximum credit limit to $1,500 for improvements placed in service in 2009 and 2010. The credit applies to improvements such as adding insulation, energy efficient exterior windows and energy-efficient heating and air conditioning systems.

A similar credit was available for 2007, but was not available in 2008. Homeowners should be aware that the standards in the new law are higher than the standards for the credit that was available in 2007 for products that qualify as “energy efficient” for purposes of this tax credit.

For property purchased before June 1, 2009, homeowners generally can rely on the manufacturers’ certifications and Energy Star labels that were available at the time for those products. Manufacturers have been advised that they should not continue to provide certifications for property that fails to meet the new standards. The IRS has issued Notice 2009-53 that will allow manufacturers to certify that their products meet the new standards. Please note, not all ENERGY STAR qualified products qualify for a tax credit. For detailed information about qualifying improvements, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyStar Web site and the EnergyStar Frequently Asked Questions site.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit (Section 1122): This nonrefundable energy tax credit will help individual taxpayers pay for qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps and wind turbines. The new law removes some of the previously imposed maximum amounts and allows for a credit equal to 30 percent of the cost of qualified property. See Notice 2009-41.

Plug-in Electric Drive Vehicle Credit (Section 1141): The new law modifies the credit for qualified plug-in electric drive vehicles purchased after Dec. 31, 2009. To qualify, vehicles must be newly purchased, have four or more wheels, have a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 14,000 pounds, and draw propulsion using a battery with at least four kilowatt hours that can be recharged from an external source of electricity. The minimum amount of the credit for qualified plug-in electric drive vehicles is $2,500 and the credit tops out at $7,500, depending on the battery capacity. The full amount of the credit will be reduced with respect to a manufacturer’s vehicles after the manufacturer has sold at least 200,000 vehicles. For more information see: Questions and Answers, Notice 2009-54 and Notice 2009-89.

Plug-In Electric Vehicle Credit (Section 1142): The new law also creates a special tax credit for two types of plug-in vehicles — certain low-speed electric vehicles and two- or three-wheeled vehicles. The amount of the credit is 10 percent of the cost of the vehicle, up to a maximum credit of $2,500 for purchases made after Feb. 17, 2009, and before Jan. 1, 2012. To qualify, a vehicle must be either a low speed vehicle propelled by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery with a capacity of 4 kilowatt hours or more or be a two- or three-wheeled vehicle propelled by an electric motor that draws electricity from a battery with the capacity of 2.5 kilowatt hours. A taxpayer may not claim this credit if the plug-in electric drive vehicle credit is allowable. For more information see: IR-2009-44 and Notice 2009-58.

Conversion Kits (Section 1143): The new law also provided a tax credit for plug-in electric drive conversion kits. The credit is equal to 10 percent of the cost of converting a vehicle to a qualified plug-in electric drive motor vehicle and placed in service after Feb. 17, 2009. The maximum amount of the credit is $4,000. The credit does not apply to conversions made after Dec. 31, 2011. A taxpayer may claim this credit even if the taxpayer claimed a hybrid vehicle credit for the same vehicle in an earlier year.

Treatment of Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit as a Personal Credit Allowed Against AMT (Section 1144): Starting in 2009, the new law allows the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit, including the tax credit for purchasing hybrid vehicles, to be applied against the Alternative Minimum Tax. Prior to the new law, the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit could not be used to offset the AMT. This means the credit could not be taken if a taxpayer owed AMT or was reduced for some taxpayers who did not owe AMT.

Questions and Answers

If you have questions about the energy incentives for individuals, these questions and answers might help.

Related Items:

IR-2009-44, Energy-Saving Steps This Year May Result in Tax Savings Next Year

Fact Sheet 2009-10, Energy Provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergyStar Web site and the EnergyStar Frequently Asked Questions site

Marketing products for partners

Energy Incentives for Businesses in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Information Center

Gustavo A. Viera, CPA

Corporations

April 16, 2010

n forming a corporation, prospective shareholders exchange money, property, or both, for the corporation’s capital stock. A corporation generally takes the same deductions as a sole proprietorship to figure its taxable income. A corporation can also take special deductions. For federal income tax purposes, a C corporation is recognized as a separate taxpaying entity. A corporation conducts business, realizes net income or loss, pays taxes and distributes profits to shareholders.

The profit of a corporation is taxed to the corporation when earned, and then is taxed to the shareholders when distributed as dividends. This creates a double tax. The corporation does not get a tax deduction when it distributes dividends to shareholders. Shareholders cannot deduct any loss of the corporation.

If you are a C corporation, use the information in the chart below to help you determine some of the forms you may be required to file.

Corporations that have assets of $10 million or more and file at least 250 returns annually are required to electronically file their Forms 1120 and 1120S for tax years ending on or after December 31, 2006. For more e-file information, see References/Related Topic listed below.

If you are a C corporation or an S corporation then you may be liable for… Use Form…
Income Tax 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return (PDF)
Estimated tax 1120-W, Estimated Tax for Corporations (PDF) and 8109-B, Federal Tax Deposit Coupon (PDF)
Employment taxes:

  • Social security and Medicare taxes and income tax withholding
  • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax
  • Depositing employment taxes
941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return (PDF) or 943, Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees(PDF) (for farm employees)

940, Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax return(PDF)

8109-B, Federal Tax Deposit Coupon (PDF)

Excise Taxes Refer to the Excise Tax Web page

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

April 16, 2010

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute. LLCs are popular because, similar to a corporation, owners have limited personal liability for the debts and actions of the LLC. Other features of LLCs are more like a partnership, providing management flexibility and the benefit of pass-through taxation.

Owners of an LLC are called members. Since most states do not restrict ownership, members may include individuals, corporations, other LLCs and foreign entities. There is no maximum number of members. Most states also permit “single member” LLCs, those having only one owner.

A few types of businesses generally cannot be LLCs, such as banks and insurance companies. Check your state’s requirements and the federal tax regulations for further information. There are special rules for foreign LLCs.

Classifications

The federal government does not recognize an LLC as a classification for federal tax purposes. An LLC business entity must file as a corporation, partnership or sole proprietorship tax return.

An LLC that is not automatically classified as a corporation can file Form 8832 to elect their business entity classification. A business with at least 2 members can choose to be classified as an association taxable as a corporation or a partnership, and a business entity with a single member can choose to be classified as either an association taxable as a corporation or disregarded as an entity separate from its owner, a “disregarded entity.” Form 8832 is also filed to change the LLC’s classification.

Effective Date of Election

The election to be taxed as the new entity will be in effect on the date the LLC enters on line 8 of Form 8832.  However, if the LLC does not enter a date, the election will be in effect as of the form’s filing date.  The election cannot take place more than 75 days prior to the date that the LLC files Form 8832 and the LLC cannot make the election effective for a date that is more than 12 months after it files Form 8832. However, if the election is the “initial classification election,” and not a request to change the entity classification, there is relief available for a late election (more than 75 days before the filing of the Form 8832).

Here’s What Happens After You File

April 15, 2010

Most taxpayers have already filed their federal tax returns, but many may still have questions. Here’s what the IRS wants you to know about refund status, recordkeeping, mistakes and what to do if you move. Refund InformationYou can go online to check the status of your 2009 refund 72 hours after IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return, or 3 to 4 weeks after you mail a paper return. Be sure to have a copy of your 2009 tax return available because you will need to know your filing status, the first Social Security number shown on the return, and the exact whole-dollar amount of the refund. You have three options for checking on your refund:

Go to IRS.gov, and click on “Where’s My Refund”

Call 1-800-829-4477 24 hours a day, seven days a week for automated refund information

Call 1-800-829-1954 during the hours shown in your tax form instructions

What Records Should I Keep?

Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents — such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRAs and business or rental property — should be kept longer. You should keep copies of tax returns you have filed and the tax forms package as part of your records. They may be helpful in amending already filed returns or preparing future returns.

Change of Address: If you move after you filed your return, you should send Form 8822, Change of Address to the Internal Revenue Service. If you are expecting a refund through the mail, you should also file a change of address with the U.S. Postal Service.

What If I Made a Mistake?

Errors may delay your refund or result in notices being sent to you. If you discover an error on your return, you can correct your return by filing an amended return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Gustavo A. Viera, CPA

Don’t Panic! Eight Things to Know If You Receive an IRS Notice

April 15, 2010

The Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers every year. Here are eight things taxpayers should know about IRS notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox.

  1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
  2. There are a number of reasons why the IRS might send you a notice. Notices may request payment of taxes, notify you of changes to your account, or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
  3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you are asked to do to satisfy the inquiry.
  4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  5. If you agree with the correction to your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due or the notice directs otherwise.
  6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree and include any documents and information you want the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
  7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call to help us respond to your inquiry.
  8. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

Gustavo A. Viera, CPA

Haiti Relief Workers Qualify for Combat Zone Extension; Military Personnel and Designated Civilians Have at Least 180 Days to File and Pay

April 14, 2010

Members of the military and certain civilians providing earthquake relief in Haiti have additional time to file their 2009 returns and pay any taxes due, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

Deadlines for taking care of a variety of federal tax matters are automatically extended for persons serving in a combat zone or a contingency operation. Operation Unified Response is a contingency operation, thus giving designated persons providing earthquake relief in Haiti the same extensions that are available to military and support personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat zone localities.

This relief applies to members of the military, Red Cross personnel, accredited correspondents, and civilian support personnel acting under the direction of the Armed Forces.  In most cases, the relief also applies to spouses.

Normally, eligible taxpayers have at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone or contingency operation area to take care of various tax-related matters.  For Operation Unified Response and the Haiti earthquake, these tax-related matters include:

  • Filing a 2009 federal income tax return,
  • Paying tax due for 2009,
  • Making a 2009 IRA contribution, and
  • Making a quarterly estimated tax payment for 2010

The exact deadline depends on when an eligible taxpayer went to Haiti, when he or she left Haiti, and the tax matter involved. These extensions are penalty-free and interest-free.  No form needs to be filed to get this relief.

Questions and answers on combat zone extensions can be found on IRS.gov.Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide, also available on the IRS Web site, describes this and other special tax provisions for members of the military.

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Ten Facts about Amended Returns

April 14, 2010

You can make a change or an adjustment to a tax return you’ve already filed by filing an amended return. Here are the top 10 things the IRS wants you to know about amending your federal tax return.

  1. If you need to amend your tax return, use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
  2. Use Form 1040X to correct previously filed Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. The 1040X can also be used to correct a return filed electronically. However, you can only paper file an amended return.
  3. You should file an amended return if you discover any of the following items were reported incorrectly: filing status, dependents, total income, deductions or credits.
  4. Generally, you do not need to file an amended return for math errors. The IRS will automatically make the correction.
  5. You usually do not need to file an amended return because you forgot to include tax forms such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send a request asking for those documents.
  6. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  7. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the IRS campus for the area in which you live. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the campuses.
  8. If the changes involve another schedule or form, you must attach it to the 1040X.
  9. If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
  10. If you owe additional tax for 2009, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges. Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions.

www.vieracpa.com